Super Lawyers talked with Steve Molo and Jeff Lamken, founders of the litigation boutique MoloLamken, about their decision to leave large law and form their own firm. Molo was a partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York and Lamken was a partner at Baker Botts in Washington, D.C. before joining forces in October 2009. The firm handles complex business litigation, IP litigation, and white-collar defense and investigations in the US for clients around the world. They try cases and argue appeals, as well as handle arbitrations. The firm has offices in New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
How did you connect?
Steven Molo: We worked together on the Ron Perelman Morgan Stanley case in Palm Beach. We both were brought in after things went sideways based on problems with e-discovery and the judge had all but directed a verdict on liability as a sanction. The jury awarded $1.6 billion in compensatory and punitive damages against Morgan Stanley but we got that reversed and judgment entered in our client’s favor.
How did that experience lead to the creation of the firm?
Jeffrey Lamken: We actually worked together with four or five other firms on the Perelman case, but only top people from each firm. It was a great experience, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great if you would have a firm made up of a small, professionally elite team really focused on results for the client?
Both of you left successful large-firm practices to open your own firm in the midst of a market decline. What motivated you to do it then?
Lamken: We saw the market decline caused by the financial crisis as a great opportunity to launch a firm in which we could align our economic interests with those of our clients. The financial pressure caused by the crisis had a lot of people questioning the traditional big law model. People seemed receptive to something new.
What did you hope to accomplish that you couldn’t at a large firm?
Molo: Well, the absence of conflicts was a big part of it — the ability to bring significant cases that you could never do at a large firm. And, of course, we now have the freedom to bet on ourselves with fee arrangements that reward success as opposed to time spent.
Lamken: Foremost in our thinking— and central to what Steve just mentioned — we have been able to build a team of A-plus people with our own strong culture and shared vision and approach to winning cases for our clients.
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